Saturday, 23 August 2014

What's the big idea then?

Where I get my story telling inspiration - The Big Idea Competition 

Growing up as a toddler in Saudi Arabia, in the very early eighties, my one source of entertainment and education was Sesame street. I was enthralled! I was particularly taken with Kermit the frog - and my favourite part was his News Flashes. I believe that Sesame street contributed greatly to my early education of numbers, letters and humour! 
My mother was also passionately aggressive in her belief that the alphabet, words and the English language should be drummed into me as soon as I came into the world. I remember my room being covered in large, colourful alphabet letters and her reading Enid Blyton to me every single evening. 

My father told me from a young age that if 'One does not speak properly, one shall never get a good job." It is hardly surprising that I went on to love English, complete an English degree and teach English for ten years. Most recently I have become interested in English for speakers of other languages, have taught this subject and am currently half way through a Masters in this very subject (and Education). 

When I was very young I went to a public school for a short time where I partook in some elocution lessons. "How now brown cow" and all that. I have always been inspired by pronunciation, elocution and phonetics - especially with its emerging prevalence in schools today and our increasingly multilingual population. 

All of which has inspired my ideas for my own story telling and, more importantly - my entry for The Big Idea Competition . My entry merges my education, my love of English, understanding of English as an additional language,  the hilarity of elocution lessons and ultimately - Kermit the frog's News Flashes - in an idea that I feel could be marketed to children - to schools - and internationally as a tool for English learning.   

So wish me luck!

This has been Stephanie Siviter, reporting from Leeds, on behalf of Mumsnet and The big Idea Competition. 


Thursday, 14 August 2014

Explanation for your friend, with a new born, who didn't text you back

I saw you both, from the buggy area on the train; Scarborough bound. I put you both at around eighteen - or at least that stage in your life where nothing sags, everything is pert, and you can rock a tattoo like the one you had, of a busty burlesque girl on your calf, and look good with green streaks in your long, shiny hair. I stared at you both for far too long because you were astounding to me; like a piece of beautiful art. Your figures alone; made me want to weep.

In case you were wondering, I was the weirdo, in terribly unfashionable clothes, with too many bags, who was shoving various food stuffs into a toddler's mouth in a frantic attempt to keep him schtum for the two hour journey, staring at you wistfully. And I overheard your conversation, which went like this:

Cool girl 1: Have you spoken to (friend's name)?
Cool girl 2: No...you know, she's had her baby now.
Cool girl 1: Yeah, I know. I text her the other day and I got no reply. So you know, I can't really be  
                    doing with her anymore.
Cool girl 2: She didn't text you back? That's really bad.

I thought I might venture a reason you may not have got a reply.

Your friend is facing the very real reality of being responsible for a tiny human for the rest of her life. She has said goodbye, for the time being, to sleep, to socialising, to eating hot meals, to drinking hot tea, to peeing, pooing and showering alone.

During the birth she has, more than likely, had several strangers stare at her privates (they aren't private anymore). She may be in a huge amount of pain, unable to sit down, terrified to poo, buying maternity pads by the truck load, she might be feeling the pain of a Cesarean scar. Her legs, where once a cool tattoo could have been placed, might be triple the size after an Epidural.

She might be struggling with breastfeeding, her nipples might be bleeding, she may have had to pee in a vase in her room because she is too scared to leave her new born for one second (this definitely did not happen to me, no way). She may have a list of family who are desperate to visit. She may be dealing with conflicting interference from well meaning health visitors and grandparents.

She may be in the transitioning period between the pure elation of giving birth, the epic come down of emotions shortly after and the dawning terror of 'HOW THE CRAP AM I SUPPOSED TO DO ANY OF THIS?' 

She might be running her hands over her figure, puzzled that it hasn't immediately bounced back like those people in the magazines seem able to do so easily. She might be fiddling with the clasps on a tiny baby grow, shaking hands, terrified of the fragility of this new born, scared to death of breaking them.  

She might even be suffering from Post Natal Depression, feeling alone and hopeless, and in more need of support from her friends than you could ever know. She might be mourning the loss of the old her, settling into her new role, figuring out what this all means.

It is very possible that she read your text message...but then completely forgot she ever read it, or that she owned a phone (as I still do, and my son is 17 months old). She might be wondering why she spoke to the delivery man with one boob on show and didn't notice. One thing is for sure, she is dealing with the after shock of her baby arriving. 

So don't give up on her just yet... in eighteen years, she'll be back to her old self!


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Toddler - The Master Manipulator

It is easy to be angry with my boyfriend, infuriated at a stranger, peeved off with Mother, but I have discovered it is practically impossible to be angry with a toddler. You don't stand a chance. 

Case in point. Mother tells me it is important to let toddler roam about the death trap (house) as he needs his space and it is good for his development. So I do as I'm told and see toddler has ventured into the master boudoir: where the magic used to happen. 

As soon as I see him, I notice he has suspicious brown stains all over his forehead. Here we go again I think, before spotting my eyeliner pencil in his chubby little paw. Then, in horror movie slow mo...I turn to my pristine cream (rented) wall and see what looks like the beginning of the Chinese alphabet, in Kohl brown, stopping at about toddler height. 

I looked at the wall, I looked at him. I looked at the wall, I looked at him. Time froze and then... his innocent little eyes welled up and he was bawling. I hadn't said a word. He might not know where his nose is yet...but he sure knew that impromptu Banksy style graffiti on the bedroom wall was not the right thing to do. 

Then the little boy who has never ever, ever, ever said 'mummy' before, suddenly was full of 'mamma? mamma? mammaaaaaaa?s' He stood there, in a stretched out baby grow, gathered around his feet, eyeliner on his forehead, his sleeves a bit too long, tears running down his face. 

Oh yes, Son. You definitely take after your Mother, master manipulator. Todder 1, Parent 0. 

"It's ok sweetheart, it's ok darling, don't worry...how about some chocolate milk and 'The Muppets'?"




Wednesday, 6 August 2014

I left my son in the Bargain Bin

Today I saw that Brummymummyof2 had come under fire for something she had written in a humorous Blog Post. The post was so good it had been selected as Netmums Blog of the day; a thing to celebrate! I would love to be blog of the day myself, (hint, hint) but I digress.

Brummymummyof2 had listed her 'dirty secrets'; the 5% of things that she does that she is not proud of. They included humorous things such 'cleaning her privates with baby wipes' and 'putting her pyjamas on at 3pm'...the one that caused controversy was about leaving a dirty nappy for the children's dad to do (a time was not specified - though I am sure people filled in the blank with hours of neglectful time, rather than minutes). Apparently, because of this she was labeled 'neglectful' and 'cruel' and made to feel like a bad mother - This got me thinking about blogging and humour.

The only thing I can do well is humour (and I'm quite good at changing nappies) so my writing has always been an effort at being funny. My blogs are silly, you can guarantee I am moaning about my child, and you can guarantee I am trying to make you laugh (this one excluded). I have tried not to worry about anyone reading my writing 'seriously'. If they did, they would read my record of pregnancy and being 'overdue' and think I was the most ungrateful pregnant person ever to grace the earth, they would read my 'new born' tales and think I didn't enjoy a second of it...and now I have a toddler, well, they would think I was a terrible mother. Just look at the picture on my blog. And if I did worry about that sort of thing, I don't think I would be able to write anything again.

I have made statements in my blogs before, for example, that my son was so heavy in his sling that I considered "ditching the loser in the bargain bin" in the supermarket. I didn't. We came home, I gave him a bath, gave him warm milk and read him a story. Oh! and changed his nappy. Shit. Don't shout at me. I changed his nappy. A nanosecond after he soiled it. (phew).

My heart went out to Brummymummyof2 because what was supposed to be a nice thing turned into something quite nasty. I hope that any of the people, with children, who read the blog and commented in a negative way hadn't had an untimely poop situation themselves at the time (their child, not them); because they would have then had to scurry away from that computer or phone screen like a stabbed rat to make sure they weren't guilty of the same type of 'neglect'.

I imagine she was just trying to be funny... as many of us try to be. In today's world .... it would seem there are bigger things to get worked up about than some lovely mummy who writes a funny post in an attempt to make people smile, or as a small release from looking after two young children all the live long day.

Besides - I thought everyone used baby wipes to clean their privates?

Disclaimer: Everything in this post is lighthearted and my own opinion. I did not stab a rat. My partner tells me it is a term from 'Top Gear'. Despite this I am not in cahoots with Jeremy Clarkson and do not agree with his positions regarding strikers or swerving to avoid animals. I change my son's nappy, if he's been good. This last statement was again, a joke. I, at no point, when I found myself without a nappy in a B&B at the seaside at 5am (when the local shop didn't open until 7am) tried to fashion a makeshift nappy out of swimming pants and feminine hygiene products. No way did that happen. Please don't shout at me. Thank you.



Thursday, 24 July 2014

Where's your girlfriend? A Stay at Home Mum Hell Beast ate her.

Relationships are hard work. Compromising everyday between work, fun, your family, their family, your needs, his needs, housework and this unbearable heat. Throw a toddler in the mix and things just get harder. I am lucky and privileged to be able to be a) a mother and b) a Stay at home mum... but sometimes it is all consuming and what we once were is yet a distant memory.

Pre-baby my partner would have come home to an energetic, enthusiastic, bright eyed and bushy tailed girl wearing something flattering, hair fully done and face decorated with make up. Even post baby he would have come home to me exhausted ... but still resembling the girl he once knew. In the middle of toddler Hell my partner can arrive home to find me utterly drained.

You see...

I will have been up since 5am, I will have cleaned the house from top to bottom wearing tracksuit rags covered in peanut butter, shampoo and snot. I will have been shusshhing a screeching toddler and running around the house after them taking lethal items out of their sticky paws. I will have been frantically washing up during the hour he sleeps. I will have been looking, whilst rushing about, at all the things wrong around the house that I simply don't have time to do. I will catch myself in the mirror and see I'm not the weight I once was, I should put on a tiny bit of make up because I look horrible but I simply don't have time. I will have gone to the park in the blistering heat worrying the whole time about sunburn and realising half way up the hill I had forgotten the fucking ball. I will have got home in time to make a lunch and spend half an hour desperately trying to feed it to said Toddler. Then it will be time to think about dinner, but I am missing one vital ingredient so I'm back out with toddler to the shop, and I'm back and cooking. And all I have eaten is bits off his plate and half cups of cold tea. Then I'm watching some dreadful loud, children's program and the toddler is climbing over my head and won't sit still for a single minute. Then I'm getting the bath ready and organising his evening snack and reading him a story and then the door....

Hello darling.....

He arrives home to a frumpy, sweating, dark (bag under) eyed, lifeless, limp, exhausted shell of a woman covered in mashed potato, calpol and talcum powder. And then of course all of the annoyances of the day? Well - obviously they're his fault.

But they aren't his fault - and we are still those excited love birds we once were, those birds are just hidden ... under the snot, and dribble, and talcum powder, and mashed potato and peanut butter and teething granules and poop! I still love you so - and I'm still your girlfriend, I'm just afraid a stay at home mum Hell beast ate me.




Sunday, 20 July 2014

What happens before 7.20am

In a B&B room, up on the eighth floor (with no lift), up on the top of a cliff, a toddler awakes from his slumber on a Saturday at 5am and lets his mother know by bellowing "BLUMPH GAW, BLUMPH GAW". His mother falls out of bed and leaps to work trying to shhhh the toddler but the toddler doesn't understand sshhhh yet and she can practically hear her neighbours tutting in their beds..... What's in your mouth? What have you put in your mouth?....


So you liberate him from the travel cot and watch him bound about the hotel room looking for hazardous items. He's going for the kettle.... now he's going for the toilet brush... now he's going for the lampshade... Dear God! What is in your hand? What is in your hand? and you realise you have completely run out of nappies.



So you try to fashion one out of tissue and feminine hygiene products but you soon realise after ten minutes that Bear Grylls you are not. So you tape and plug him up and take him down the eight flights to the ground floor. And you wheel him to the local shop and you frantically push on the door before noticing the sign "Open at 7am".



So you wheel him about the empty streets praying he won't defecate.  A few strangers nod at you and you know you haven't done your hair or make up and you're not wearing a bra and you must look terrifically shocking. But you happen upon a crazy golf course but you'd have to be dangerously crazy to be up this early on a Saturday morning at the seaside so it's deserted. So you free him from his buggy and watch him stampede about the course.



You're back outside the shop at 6.59am and you get your nappies. You wheel him back up the cliff to the b&b. You take him out of the buggy and carry him up the eight flights of stairs. You strip off and both get in the shower. And disaster is averted. He's clean and in a fresh nappy. You are thoroughly exhausted, sweating, deflated. You sit on the floor in the corner watching him thrash around.



He picks up a 'Revel' that you dropped last night off the floor. It might be a coffee one.... but you haven't the energy to take it out of his mouth. You realise you left your debit card in the card machine in the shop. It is 7.20am.



Your partner calls :  "Hello darling, are the two of you having a nice 'break'?











Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Toddler & Mamma's ... Day of Fun

It is a truth universally acknowledged that ... No... No... We do NOT put our shoes in our macaroni cheese ... if you're going out with your toddler - you will need to get up seven hours early. So I did. And the house was dark and peaceful so I decided it was the best time to do the washing up. Or it wouldn't be done. And I was excited! Excited for the day ahead. 

But what's this? He's up! He knows, we have an exciting day ahead. So you set up the fortress of gates and cushions and he charges around on his chubby stumps like a demented Rhino. Remember when he was cute, defenceless, weak, remember when he couldn't hold his own head up for Christ's sake? No.... mummy's very hungover this morning darling so you can't have your tambourine. 


Now he's a little Herculean chimp - no one told me I'd need such upper body strength, no one told me they screech, no one told me they bite! So you start to pack, and do your hair and make-up,  although you can't really do it well because he's screeching about the fact that even though he's allowed in 4 rooms - he is only interested in the 5th one you occupy... Is that chocolate or poop? Chocolate or poop? Darling, will you sniff this for me?

And three hours have passed. And he threw the banana sandwich for breakfast at you and he's learnt how to take his nappy off and he's screaming at Jeremy Kyle. And you leave. And you're on the bus. And he hates it. And you can't stop thinking you've left something behind. Is that old milk or new milk? Old or new? Excuse me? Will you sniff this for me?

And then you're in the train station but the train isn't for 39 fucking minutes. And you spend 99% of your energy trying to keep him silent and entertained. But eventually, you get there. 
And you go to lunch with your friend and he screams and gurns and strains and you say "I'm so sorry, he's never like this!" 

So you take him to a lawn 5 miles squared. But he doesn't like the grass, he only likes the concrete steps. But you don't want him to dance on them so he screams and becomes an even bigger arsehole than you knew he could be.  No, put that down, we do not read Private Eye! 

But it's ok because you're going home now. And he is squalling "Gwarrrk" at the entire silent train carriage, repeatedly. And shrieking because he's fed up and nothing will placate him. And you remember that time you were single and alone and pre-toddler in Ibiza, lying on a beach in silence, drinking cocktails, listening to Boyzone. 

And he ate your ticket earlier in the restaurant so you tell the conductor you don't have a ticket and you sob and point at toddler.
You just point.
The conductor lets you off... so you sob some more. 
I think it was a great Philosopher who once said ... Is that pee or juice? PEE OR JUICE? toddlers are arseholes.
On the bright side - I definitely put a fair few people off having children today! So I have done my bit for 'Contraception Britain'. 
Jeremy Kyle - you're welcome!